Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - NateGoold_Proof_Positive
[PATIENT story] [PATIENT story]
role model because she is articulate,
passionate about life and she’s recovered
well — emotionally and physically.”
“I just want to tell patients, ‘Yes, you will
get past this and follow what the nurses
and doctors tell you,’ ” says Laura. “ ‘They
know what’s best. You’re blessed to be
here at Via Christi.’ ”
Laura’s optimism, infectious smile and
friendly demeanor are inspirational to
Shel Hughes, the first patient Laura
counseled as a SOAR volunteer, was
burned as she was pouring gas into her
“When Laura first visited me, I was scared
and I had a lot of questions about what
my life would be like,” Shel says. “She
understood what I was going through.
Laura comforted me and let me know
everything would be all right.”
Shel says Laura motivated her to become
a SOAR volunteer, too.
“I feel like helping burn patients is my
calling,” she says. “I need to be there for
them like Laura was for me.”
A disastrous chain of events
On Jan. 3, 2005, Laura, an office manager
in Winfield, was looking at a newly
painted hallway when someone kicked
over a can of acetone. She then slipped
and fell in the caustic substance. As she
struggled to her feet, a spark of static
electricity ignited the chemical fumes and
caused a powerful flash fire that threw her
into a glass cabinet and severely burned
Burn survivor Laura Thomas
inspires patients on their own
journey to recovery
On fire, Laura dropped to the ground
and rolled while one co-worker
removed his shirt to help her extinguish
the flames. Another co-worker tried to
help douse the fire with a nearby pot of
coffee, scalding her already sensitive
skin and compounding her injuries.
Badly burned and in tremendous pain,
Laura was taken to the town’s hospital,
then transported by ambulance to Via
Christi Hospital on St. Francis, home to
the only dedicated burn care facility
within 180 miles of Wichita.
The slow journey to recovery
Laura was brought directly into the
center’s admit room, which is kept at
110 degrees to prevent hypothermia, a
o look at Laura Thomas today, you would never know that she quietly
suffers from life-altering burn injuries that have left her scarred and in
The wife and mother of three was a patient at Via Christi Regional Burn Center
for six weeks after being burned in a flash fire at her workplace.
That was nearly eight years ago. Now she is a frequent visitor to the center as a
volunteer for SOAR — Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery — to give hope
“She is instrumental in building a rapport and a connection with people,” says
Curt West, a case worker in the Burn Center. “I think they find her a positive
After the accident, Laura was able to be present for the birth of her first grandchild,
Isabella. She and her husband, Bob, recently visited her in Florida.
For Laura Thomas, being a volunteer
for the SOAR program is a way to provide
hope to burn patients and give back to
Via Christi Regional Burn Center.
What is SOAR?
Designed by the Phoenix Society, the Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery
(SOAR) program provides formal training to burn survivors who can help
comfort burn patients and their loved ones by giving them one-on-one support.
Volunteers do not give medical advice, but they can share their experiences and
give hope to burn patients.
Since its creation in 2001, the SOAR program has been implemented in 48
hospitals throughout the U.S. and Canada. The program came to Via Christi
Regional Burn Center in 2010 and has six participating volunteers.
lower-than-normal body temperature
caused by losing skin, which serves as the
Nurses washed and removed dead skin,
an excruciating process.
A skin graft taken from her own body
was applied to Laura’s burns within a day
of her arrival. She would require several
more during the next few weeks.
“The pain from a severe burn is so
indescribable that you have to mentally
keep your head above it just to cope,”
Laura says. “I prayed, I focused on the
faces of my children in the photo by
my bed and found comfort with my
husband’s hand on mine.”
“The nurses and the doctors provided me
with exemplary care and helped me live
through that time. I knew that I was safe,
that I was cared for and I felt like a person
and not just a patient in bed 28.”
“I just want to give back. The
way that I feel I can do that is
through the SOAR program
and to let other survivors
know the other side.”
— Laura Thomas
Via Christi Life 3736 Via Christi Life Via Christi Health | viachristi.org | O C T O B E R - N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 2 O C T O B E R - N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 2 | viachristi.org | Via Christi Health
save aneurysm patient’s
life — again and again
is a gift
— not a
was Easter weekend — Good
Friday, 2011 — and “a storm was
brewing” inside Karen Fifer’s head.
“It hit with lightning speed,” she says.
“In a matter of minutes our lives were
Karen, 58, of Haysville, was surrounded
by family at her daughter Cindi’s home in
Wichita, about to enjoy an outdoor meal
of homemade tacos.
“Suddenly it felt like I had been hit in the
head with a hammer,” she says.
Dizziness then excruciating pain set in.
Karen wrapped her arms around her
husband Don’s waist and “hung on for
“Clutching at his shirt just to contain
myself, all I could do was say, ‘God, oh
God’ over and over,” she says.
Another of Karen’s daughters, DeAnna,
a surgery tech, recognized what was
happening to her mother, who was
holding her head and moaning. A weak
spot in a blood vessel in Karen’s head —
an aneurysm — had ruptured, causing
extreme pain as blood leaked into the
space around her brain.
DeAnna told Cindi, “Call EMS.
Something’s wrong with Mom.”
Karen says DeAnna’s quick actions
“probably saved my life.”
Reading the Bible is one of the joys Karen Fifer makes more
time for since a ruptured brain aneurysm nearly took her life.
She lives by the statement, “Every day is a gift — not a given.”
Understanding what had happened to her body and why was challenging.
“She went through a lot physically, spiritually and emotionally,” says Karen Kelman,
RN, who has worked in the Burn Center for 19 years and cared for Laura during
wound cleanings and bandage changes.
“I worked with her because she enjoys humor, which is what I bring to my patients
when they need it. With the mix of personalities in our unit, we are able to give our
patients all the support they need when they need it.”
Saying thanks by
Although many years have passed
since Laura’s accident, the scars,
pain and memory of her caregivers’
kindness remains. Coming back as a
volunteer is her way of returning the
Through tragedy, burn survivors share a powerful connection. Laura Thomas and
Shel Hughes, the first patient she counseled as a volunteer, keep in contact and
Part of the Oct. 14 Prairie Fire Marathon — a 1.2-mile
fun run/walk sponsored by the Paige Estes Memorial
Foundation — benefits Via Christi Regional Burn Center.
Last year, $10,000 of the proceeds went to help provide
necessities to burn patients and their families. Visit
prairiefiremarathon.com for more information about
Prairie Fire events.
To give directly to the Burn Center, contact Connie Neal
at email@example.com or call 316-268-5292.
Reasons you might go to
the Burn Center
Located in the hospital on St. Francis,
Via Christi Regional Burn Center is a
specialized facility that takes care of
more than just burn patients. Commonly
treated conditions include:
Snake and spider bites
Complex wounds (e.g., pressure
ulcers, electrical burns)
Cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection
Necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-
Ways you can help burn patients
Watch Laura Thomas and others
tell her story by visiting
Via Christi Life 3938 Via Christi Life Via Christi Health | viachristi.org | O C T O B E R - N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 2 O C T O B E R - N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 2 | viachristi.org | Via Christi Health